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I don’t recall ever seeing a sitting president work so hard to pursue the agenda that got him elected: last week Barack Obama made several campaign-style stops to promote the health care reform he believes to be vitally important, and on Sunday he managed to appear on five different talk shows.

You have to admit he’s a man on a mission, whether you like his mission or not.

This coming week, Obama has to shift a bit from his domestic agenda to international matters, as he hosts a Tuesday meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and a Thursday-Friday economic summit of the “Group of 20.”

I’m hopeful, though not optimistic, that something good may come from the meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Many Americans still fail to appreciate the significance of Israeli-Palestinian relations for peace in a much broader, global context. The Israelis continue to seize Palestinian land and build Jewish settlements on it, an arrogant wrongdoing that has implications far beyond the West Bank.

Few Americans get riled up about Israel’s bully behavior, in part because so many of us erroneously equate the modern State of Israel with the biblical people of Israel, and assume that God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 are still the guiding principle for international relations. Though well meaning, we’re just wrong in thinking that we have to defend Israeli incursions against the Palestinians as part of God’s plan.

At the present, however, relations between the Israelis and Palestinians are about as intractable as the divide between American Democrats and Republicans. Tolerance, compassion, and compromise are in danger of becoming lost arts.

I do believe the president is working hard to preserve those important elements of civil society, both in American and abroad.

May God be with him.

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